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The Conservatives believe that Europe is a threat to Britain’s sovereignty; this is true. The Conservatives also believe that the loss of Britain’s sovereignty is a bad thing; this is untrue.
People tend to throw the term around with wild abandon, knowing that it is something important and something that they would like to keep. It is a part of our national identity, our national pride and our governmental authority. But British state sovereignty, while it is gradually waning away through our membership of the European Union, is rapidly being rendered meaningless and useless by globalisation; the loss of it may actually be of benefit for the 21st century individual.
Britain has undoubtedly been losing its ability to govern itself and to control and shape its future since it joined what is now the European Union in 1973. The laws, regulations and directives created on the European level and imposed upon the nation state can be nothing other than a limitation on national autonomy, as our government is unable to limit immigration from within Europe, are forced to comply to laws created by an external body, and have lost the power to control our own economy to the degree that was possible previously.
This inescapable truth has inspired the euro-sceptical element of the Conservative Party since the 1980s and is a position that has attracted a great deal of support. The rhetoric of being in defence of Britain, protecting identity, tradition, and nine-hundred years of history is a powerful argument that seems to strike a note among the patriotic and the easily angered.
State sovereignty however, is much like the Holy Grail, it is something that is forever being sought, but has never been claimed. Britain has never been completely free to control its destiny and it has never been able to govern over its citizens and territory without outside interference. Throughout history Britain has been bound by treaties and agreements with other states, and has even had monarchs practically being employed of other nations, but none of these have intruded on the territory of the state at as rapid a rate as globalisation.
Like it or not, borders have been broken down as people travel, communicate, and do business with people from all over the world. Events and disasters now have worldwide implications and, crime, pollution and economic fluctuations are no longer problems tied to a single area. States can only achieve anything if they work for it together, and if that happens one cannot protest if their state is no longer as independent as it may once have been.
Britain would be unable to have any control over its destiny and would do little but float at the mercy of the tides of global forces if it were to go it alone. Membership of the EU gives the citizen, if not the state, far more power and autonomy than the archaic concept of the state can offer as it liberates them from a powerless authority, and gives them a role as global citizens of the 21st century.